Going to web conferences is a great opportunity to make new contacts and exchange business cards. Unfortunately, we have an industry filled with creative people who have no creative marketing for themselves. Sure, many have business cards, but one in a hundred have something really cool. These unique treasures, cards, items etc. get kept, talked about and usually photographed and shared. This post is an inspiration for all you creatives to step up your game, either by getting things made or by making them yourselves.
A note of warning though: interesting promotional materials almost always cost more per unit than a white business card or require a lot of prep work, so you’re often going to have a limited quantity. Pick the people you give these treasures to wisely. Those people will feel more important for getting a limited edition, and you don’t run the risk of spending an absolute fortune (in time or money) producing mass quantities!
Get something special made Link
There’s multitudes of promotional companies out there to help you create little treasures. You can order them online, but going for the lowest price isn’t always the best bet: quality products in this case is worth a few extra pennies per unit. Make sure you get them produced in your home country as shipping to another company can cost you more than your items!
Brownie points for sew-on badges Link
Remember girl guides or boy scouts? For some, getting a sew-on badge (especially if it looks cool) will delight the inner camper and badge collector.
Sew on badge from www.edshoots.com
Pin them down Link
Pin-on badges are relatively inexpensive and if well designed (or with a cheeky graphic) will be attached to a bag or coat. I know I have at least one badge that I’ve received attached to my bag. Sam Brown’s pins, for his app, remindness2, combined with business cards in a little goodie bag, are a treat to receive, and a great way to get awareness up for his upcoming launch.
Keep them stuck on you Link
Stickers are another relatively inexpensive ‘extra’. It’s especially great if you have a character or logo that has a lot of personality. Koshi, for example, designed the Songbird as a distraction from blogging and coding, but it ended up a popular character that made excellent stickers.
Mobus stickers; aren’t they cute?
Make a point with pins Link
Proper pins are much more expensive than plain business cards to make, but they do send a message: you have a certain ‘classic’ quality to your design, you’re not cheap, and attention to detail is important to you. Andy Clarke, from Stuff and Nonsense15, who is well known for promoting good practice in css (and author of “Transcending CSS”), is a great example of how you can match your brand image with your pin.
Matches, tattoos and ornaments, oh my! Link
Promotional companies can create almost everything for you. If you’re a smoker, hand out a few packs of matches during the break to your fellow smokers. Is it near a holiday? Perhaps you can incorporate your card into a decoration! If you’re heading to the pub and you’ve created funny or cool temporary tattoos, you’ll be sure to find some enthusiastic friends willing to don your stuff.
Get lots of toys made Link
If you’ve got a cool character, want huge quantities (some places have minimum quantities of a few thousand), have a lot of money to spare (cost per unit may be low, but will easily put a dent in your wallet), have a huge lead time (definitely more than a month or two), and want things made properly in a factory, look into getting toys made. If you’re already an excellent character designer like Gavin Strange, you can get an established toy company to help you through the process. Upon making his first toy, Droplets, his visibility has sky-rocketed, and besides selling them to friends and family on his own website, he’s also in toy shops amongst more established toy makers. Those that purchase a droplet sometimes get little bonuses of stickers and badges. “Visibility has been unreal,” says Gavin.
You don’t need to a toy company to make them for you though. With a little elbow grease, you can organize the production yourself. If you’re going to do it without a company’s support, Figurepunk has this tutorial (click diy in the menu) for a brief overview of how Mashboy was designed and manufactured.
How cute are these Droplets?
All the different colours of Mashboy
A cow keychain from utterz.com
Go homemade Link
Make something cool, but make it out of paper Link
Making a real gear chain would be expensive, but what about a paper version? Paper is a very versatile medium and papercraft can make exceptionally unique cards. Time intensive, yes, but worth the effort to create something truly unique.
Etched in their minds Link
Have any experience with embossing? Do you love playing with different etching techniques? It’s a perfect opportunity to create something unique and memorable.
Playing games with them Link
Let’s face it: we’re an immature bunch, us creatives, and we like nothing more than a bit of fun and games. How about a business card that is also a weapon (not a handgun, but maybe a water gun, or as we have here, a catapult). Or, make your card into an actual game, like a deck of cards, or a role playing game?
The best bet is to find something that people will enjoy playing with. How do you know? Usually it’d be something you enjoy playing with too!
Something heart-‘felt’ Link
It’s amazing what you can do with felt. It’s also amazing how personal anything made with it feels, especially as a relatively inexpensive material.
How would you feel if you received a handmade doll? Dolls for Friends41 have a running list of people that inspire them (whether it be designers, actors, musicians etc) and then send out a custom doll along with their regular marketing materials about their studio. They’ve got lots of good publicity and feedback from sending them and, because each doll can take anywhere from an hour to a few weeks to create, they’re special for everyone who receives them. Erin Lynch, co-founder of Dolls for Friends, is very passionate about creating unique experiences: “Anyone can send out a tri-fold brochure or postcard (and in a lot of cases that’s fine), but why not give some art or design back to the people (or potential clients) out there that you appreciate? It’s all about spreading the love.”
You don’t even have to do something so time intensive or intricate as that though, especially if you have quite a few to create. For example, Tim Van Damme sent cozies, made by Leigh Hicks42, along with stickers and buttons, as “a way to thank the people from whom I’ve learned everything I know”, he says. Even though these weren’t intended as promotional material, he ended up getting a good amount of exposure from those people posting his packages on flickr. Genuine goodwill lead to genuine publicity.
A custom doll from dollsforfriends.com
ARRR! It’s a treasure ye say? Link
The best part about getting a present is those seconds just before you’ve ripped into the wrapping paper. Giving someone a card where they have to open it up, like a hidden treasure, is a great way to be remembered. Anna Debenham, who made these scrunchup.com46 envelopes said that people reacted very differently to her cards, and said it was “a bit like watching someone unwrap a Christmas present.” Her card was a photocopied handwritten note explaining the scrunchup’s action plan, folded into a paper aeroplane and then put into an envelope. The cards have been a huge success: she ran out of them before the conference was over, and had random people coming up to her to ask for them.
A special bag of columbian goods. In this case, I’m guessing it’s for a good Columbian designer!
Make things from scratch using reused goods Link
Cut from cardboard found on the street and hand stamped, the cards for theboxcat.com5250, clearly reflect the spirit of its app: it’s about “random things to do and things to think about” (to be released soon!).
Making a business card out of cardboard, old plastic, tinfoil or any ‘found’ material makes for an interesting conversation starter. We all have old rulers, board game pieces and other wooden bits gathering dust in drawers and attics. These things can be cut with a saw into more appropriate sizes, and a stamp doesn’t cost much to get made!
A card made from an old ruler
Information printed on an old domino
It’s all sewn up! Link
Can you sew? Using bits of material to create your entire card, or even just to add one bit onto it, gives your card a tactile quality that normal cards don’t have. It can also show people your crafty or crazy side, especially if you choose to choose a funky fabric, or if your stitching tends to be a bit hap-hazard.
Food for thought Link
At the dConstruct conference last year, ClearLeft59 had just released silverbackapp.com6360. During the break, someone dressed up in a gorilla costume and gave out free bananas stamped with their url. Everyone was a bit startled (it was only 10am, after all!), but I’m sure everyone remembers the ape, remembers the bananas and knows it was for Silverback. Talk about strong brand reinforcement for a startup! Originally, their designer, Paul Annett, wanted to create little stickers for the bananas, but it was too expensive. “Like good designers we pro yped the idea [of stamping them instead] and it worked, so we got some custom stamps made,” says Andy Budd, their User Experience Director.
Perishable foods only work on certain occasions, but there’s lots of other food type items you can use, including chocolates, candy or gum, all of which stays preserved and can be packaged quite small. Check out Sweet Impressions61 for more ideas. You can also just go out to the candy store and make your goody bags yourself!
It’s a natural route to take Link
Imagine it: you’re trading business cards, and someone gives you a rock. Or a shell.
Do you have a logo with a flower or tree on it? How about a seed planter with instructions on care on it? Something from nature can reinforce a brand that personifies natural things. But stick to inanimate objects: no one wants a piece of rabbit skin or cat hair to put in their wallet!
Growing card for a landscape architect firm designed by Jung von Matt
Electrical delights Link
We work in technology, so wouldn’t it be great if you could bring technology to your business card? If you dabble in creating your own electronics, creating a dot matrix or flashlight out of your business card will definitely make you ‘shine out’ from the crowd. Tom Ward from www.technologycamp.co.uk, has created these and put up tutorials on how to make them. Cost per unit will probably be quite a lot (about $5 for supplies for the dot matrix or about $1 each for each flashlight, for example), and probably require a bit of skill. They may also inspire you to use your electronic skills to make something truly unique to hand out!
DIY toys can be child’s play Link
If you can’t afford the costs of getting toys made yourself, or just can’t see yourself needing enough to match the minimum quantities (more than a thousand can be daunting!), you can also make toys yourself. We’ve already seen felt toys, but you can also make toys out of things like fimo or modelling clay. A one off toy like Koshi’s songbird is great, but if you’re going to get any sort of quantity efficiency, you can make one prototype, make a mould, and then pour your own plastic.
That’s what I did for my own mascot, safetygoat. I’ve probably made over 50 of the little guys that I’ve given out, and even though they’re not perfect, they’ve been very popular. One of them is actually on an around the world tour74!
Moulds can be made from silicon, and they’re poured with polyeurathane (a type of plastic) and then hand painted. If you’re looking for supplies to make your own toys in the US, try Tap Plastics75 (who also have instructional videos and a fantastic jingle that get stuck in your head… Tap! Tap Plastics!). In the UK, try TOMPS76, who I have phoned up, and have been very helpful.
One of the replicas of safetygoat. Learn here how to make your own.
Useful and/or interactive Link
Some arts and crafts for them to do later Link
It’s activity time! Lots of people love arts and crafts, and while they’re sitting later constructing your toy or treasure, they’ll be thinking about you. That’s a good thing. If they’re proud of their construction, they’ll keep it, and people will ask about it. What else can you ask for?
Useful things (but in context) Link
Bottle openers are an obvious marketing item, but they can be done well. Look at Message in A Bottle’s bottle opener. There’s a purpose, and it’s done well.
Harrumph wants to be sweeter, movabletype wants to move and adjust things (I’m not sure this wrench actually works, but it’s beautiful!). Mamma wants to help bake you some cookies, and if you get attacked by vampires, breakfast of the mind has a stake ready for you in these homemade wooden cards. Never have a spare bobby pin when you’re looking for one? Yuka Suki’s card uses the pins to reinforce her practice: hair and make-up artist.
Look around you at everyday things and think about the context, metaphors and more that you can relate to your business in a meaningful way. Try and come up with something new and different: I’m sure we all like getting a new pen, but a pen is nothing compared to any of these examples!
Personalized sugar from www.harrumph.com
Just because it’s cool Link
Trinkets, coins and fake pills. Delightful, but just decoration. If you can pull it off, brilliant! These examples are all treasures to someone. I know I’d definitely hold on to a coin from Daniel Ballou, wouldn’t you?
weird and wonderful business cards Link
Often you have a few really cool items to hand out to special people, but most likely have limited quantities. What about the rest of the people you meet? You’ll still need a card you can give out to everyone else, and there’s no need for these to be boring. Take Rick Braithwaite’s card, which tells a whole story, or lion in oils, which uses laser cut so it can be read both backwards and forwards. Giving your card a unique finish, a fantastic illustration or an interesting shape, like Depux, will earn you the coveted spot in a person’s wallet.
A crazy story of identity from Rick
A small warning Link
The most important thing to remember when deciding what you’re going to use to promote yourself is: does this give people the impression I want people to have? For example, if you’re a designer for very serious pharmaceutical companies and are hoping to make contacts in that field, something really funky isn’t appropriate. But, on the other hand, if you’re a crazy flash developer with an obsession with fish and want to get into more fun projects, you owe it to yourself to create something memorable and creative.
You’re also going to have to carry this stuff around with you, so make things compact.
Let’s make going to meet other web people more fun by bringing cool business cards. We can’t leave all the cool stuff to the big corporations, can we?
Looking for more inspiration? Link
- a flickr group107 with lots of business card ideas
- 42 awesome business card designs108
- 54 more unique business card designs109
- instructables.com111, where they show you how to make things
- thingiverse.com112, another site for making things
- 1 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/2372872827/in/set-72057594104389710/
- 2 http://remindness.com/
- 3 http://www.flickr.com/photos/-sam/2816308475/
- 4 http://sam.brown.tc
- 5 http://www.flickr.com/photos/collylogic/2273560595/
- 6 http://www.erskinedesign.com/
- 7 http://www.flickr.com/photos/cdharrison/830021561/
- 8 http://butterlabel.com/
- 9 http://www.moo.com
- 10 http://www.flickr.com/photos/koshi/2478007078/
- 11 http://jkoshi.com/
- 12 http://www.goatsesticker.com/
- 13 http://www.goatsesticker.com/
- 14 http://www.flickr.com/photos/wadem/2342610978/
- 15 http://www.stuffandnonsense.co.uk/
- 16 http://www.flickr.com/photos/wishingline/632217374/
- 17 http://www.stuffandnonsense.co.uk/
- 18 http://www.flickr.com/photos/bettybl/290208460/
- 19 http://www.crumplerbags.com/
- 20 http://www.flickr.com/photos/laihiu/292915706/in/set-72157600007273290/
- 21 http://www.creativecommons.org
- 22 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dominic_hodgson/2972915024/sizes/l/
- 23 http://www.simpleusability.com/
- 24 http://www.flickr.com/photos/pixelopera/2208546342/in/set-72157603511671759/
- 25 http://www.techipedia.com
- 26 http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:267
- 27 http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:267
- 28 http://4volt.com
- 29 http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:211
- 30 http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-your-own-Embossed-Business-Cards-using-Acid-E/
- 31 http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-your-own-Embossed-Business-Cards-using-Acid-E/
- 32 http://www.breakfastofthemind.com/
- 33 http://www.instructables.com/id/Cardapult-the-Business-Card-Catapult/
- 34 http://gbcannon.com/
- 35 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13Z7o5Tum_E
- 36 http://www.instructables.com/id/Cardapult-the-Business-Card-Catapult/
- 37 http://www.flickr.com/photos/gabeisbored/3062394106/sizes/o/
- 38 http://cscarts.org
- 39 http://www.flickr.com/photos/heather/3285908352/
- 40 http://www.webstock.org.nz/
- 41 http://dollsforfriends.com/
- 42 http://hicksmade.com/
- 43 http://www.flickr.com/photos/jilllynch/2451064340/in/photostream/
- 44 http://www.flickr.com/photos/keeg/2406524972/
- 45 http://www.madebyelephant.com/
- 46 http://www.scrunchup.com/
- 47 http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulstanton/2835149003/
- 48 http://www.scrunchup.com/
- 49 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/126894158/in/set-72057594104389710/
- 50 http://www.theboxcat.com
- 51 http://www.theboxcat.com
- 52 http://www.theboxcat.com
- 53 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/2627733499/in/set-72057594104389710/
- 54 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/2369524670/in/set-72057594104389710/
- 55 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/2266691455/in/set-72057594104389710/
- 56 http://www.naifpanicscares.it/
- 57 http://cardobserver.com/gallery/sack-wear
- 58 http://www.sackwear.com/
- 59 http://www.clearleft.com
- 60 http://silverbackapp.com
- 61 http://www.sweetimpressions.com/candycards.html
- 62 http://www.flickr.com/photos/adactio/2829369606/in/photostream/
- 63 http://silverbackapp.com
- 64 http://www.flickr.com/photos/heather/261620082/
- 65 http://www.leica.com/
- 66 http://www.instructables.com/id/Creative-Business-Card-Alternative/
- 67 http://www.instructables.com/member/drinkmorecoffee/
- 68 http://www.instructables.com/id/Creative-Business-Card-Alternative/
- 69 http://www.jamiewieck.com/
- 70 http://www.inhabitat.com/2007/05/21/landscaped-business-card/
- 71 http://www.instructables.com/id/Dot_Matrix_Business_Card/
- 72 http://www.instructables.com/id/Flashlight_Business_Card/
- 73 http://www.instructables.com/id/Flashlight_Business_Card/
- 74 http://www.flickr.com/photos/sheeprus/sets/72157607553221243/
- 75 http://www.tapplastics.com/
- 76 http://www.tomps.com/
- 77 http://www.flickr.com/photos/koshi/1811601662/in/photostream/
- 78 http://jkoshi.com/
- 79 http://www.flickr.com/photos/koshi/1811601662/in/photostream/
- 80 http://www.flickr.com/photos/nsquaredesign/2819965080/
- 81 http://www.jfisherlogomotives.com/
- 82 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/495174803/in/set-72057594104389710/
- 83 http://www.intersectionmagazine.com
- 84 http://www.flickr.com/photos/geniealisa/2675581675/
- 85 http://message.inabottle.org/
- 86 http://www.flickr.com/photos/bilodeau/113003245/
- 87 http://www.flickr.com/photos/laihiu/504519211/in/set-72157600007273290/
- 88 http://www.movabletype.com/
- 89 http://www.flickr.com/photos/golf_pictures/2149529391/sizes/o/
- 90 http://www.mamma.com/
- 91 http://www.flickr.com/photos/21138021@N06/3443393175/
- 92 http://www.breakfastofthemind.com/
- 93 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/126898302/in/set-72057594104389710/
- 94 http://yukamakeupartist.com/
- 95 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/126895198/in/set-72057594104389710/
- 96 http://www.brand-doctors.com/
- 97 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/3025178969/in/set-72057594104389710/
- 98 http://www.dashdotstudios.com/
- 99 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/495176429/in/set-72057594104389710/
- 100 http://cardobserver.com/gallery/lion-in-oil
- 101 http://lioninoil.net/blog/
- 102 http://cardobserver.com/gallery/depux
- 103 http://www.depux.com/
- 104 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/126898613/in/set-72057594104389710/
- 105 http://www.bantjes.com/
- 106 http://cardobserver.com/
- 107 http://www.flickr.com/photos/dailypoetics/sets/72057594104389710/detail/
- 108 http://www.reencoded.com/2008/05/20/42-awesome-business-card-designs-with-links-to-100s-more/
- 109 http://www.reencoded.com/2009/02/18/54-more-unique-business-card-designs/
- 110 http://businesscards24.com/
- 111 http://www.instructables.com/
- 112 http://www.thingiverse.com/
Hold on, Tiger! Thank you for reading the article. Did you know that we also publish printed books and run friendly conferences – crafted for pros like you? Like SmashingConf New York, on June 14–15, with smart design patterns and front-end techniques.